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Leonid Bershidsky

Russia and Japan Could Finally End WWII

The two countries seem determined to reach a deal on disputed islands that has eluded them for decades.

The islands are a hot potato in Japan.

The islands are a hot potato in Japan.

Photographer: Junko Kimura/Getty Images

For decades, every sign Russia and Japan had made progress in talks on disputed territories and a post-World War II peace treaty turned out to be a false alarm. This time may be different: Both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe need a deal more than their predecessors did.

Putin and Abe met in Singapore last week and agreed to speed up talks on a peace treaty their two countries negotiated after World War II but the Soviet Union refused to sign. The talks will be based on a joint declaration the Soviet Union and Japan signed in 1956, since abandoned by both sides, that required the Soviet Union to hand over to Japan the island of Shikotan and the Habomai islets once a peace treaty was signed. In recent years, Japan has insisted on the handover of two more islands, Etorofu (Iturup) and Kunashiri (Kunashir), and Russia has refused to cede any territory at all.